Few surgeries have a higher failure rate than lumbar spinal fusion, a common back surgery that involves scraping slivers of bone off the hip and placing them in the disc space or the back of the spine. The raw bone promotes growth above and below causing the segments to fuse over an 18-month period. This results in less motion in the spine.
The surgery is done to eliminate back pain but the failure rate is so high it has a special name: “failed back surgery syndrome.”
A recent paper revealed that spinal fusion surgeries for chronic low back pain are on the rise, despite the lack of research to back their efficacy. As a result, experts are now calling for tighter guidelines, including a waiting period. Orthopedic surgeon Richard Williams, MD, who is also the spokesperson for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, says patients should wait 12 months before a spinal fusion surgery is performed because, “Most patients will recover after these 12 months.” Further, “spinal fusion rarely results in having no pain at all. The surgery works for a proportion of patients, not all.” (1)
Of course chiropractic care has been a blessing for countless people told that surgery was their only option, often saving them from this dangerous, costly and often useless medical procedure.
- Atkinson L, Zacest A. Surgical management of low back pain. Med J Aust. 2016;204(8):299-300.